“You cheated me! I had a destiny. I was supposed to die in the field—with honor! That was my destiny, and you cheated me out of it! You understand what I’m saying, Gump? This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not to me. I had a destiny. I was Lieutenant Dan Taylor.”


These iconic lines said by Lt. Dan Taylor, played by Gary Sinise, when he was berating Forrest Gump for saving his life in the Vietnam War. To me, this was the most powerful scene in the entire movie, where a soldier in love with the idea of a glorious death in battle was cheated of his chance at immortality in a family tradition of dying in battle.  It also highlights the trauma and frustration some army veterans took home after a tour of duty as Lt. Dan losses both of his legs during the ambush scene in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump,” and try to figure out how to restore some meaning to their lives.

After the movie was filmed, Gary Sinise was heavily moved by his preparation for the film. He read the book “Fortunate Son” by Lewis Puller Jr, a Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography based Puller’s experiences in Vietnam where he lost both of his legs and his left hand. His father, war hero Chesty Puller, is the most decorated Marine in history.

The book and the film changed Gary’s life as he dedicated the majority of his time as a humanitarian, volunteering for U.S military veterans all around the world.

Lt. Dan Outside The Limelight

According to Sinise’s biography, he had started personally advocating for local Vietnam veterans in Chicago during the 80s as he grew up in Illinois. Meeting his wife Moira Harris during his time with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Harris educated Sinise about the World War and the life of army veterans through his brother-in-law, US Army Captain Boyd Harris.

Inspired by Harris’ stories, he adapted a play about the Vietnam War and showed it to all military veterans for free!

He worked for the Disabled Americans Veterans organization after his film work in the legendary 1994 movie, Forrest Gump, being inspired by the film. Today he is still working with the DAV through collaborations and joint projects.